When you think of Mexican food, cheese-laden nachos, burritos, and tacos come to mind, but the fact is that authentic Mexican food is mostly vegan, healthy, and made with fresh vegetables, corn, black beans, and chiles. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the Executive Chef of Gracias Madre, Alan Sanz, shares how to make authentic Mexican food that is both delicious and vegan.

Gracias Madre is LA's most popular Mexican restaurant, with two locations, one in West Hollywood and the other in Newport Beach, that is helping to redefine what authentic Mexican food can taste like. Gracias Madre’s mission is to change the way we think of traditional Mexican Food and make it healthy, vegan and delicious,

Gracias Madre is "Mother Earth-friendly" traditional Mexican food

"Born out of love for Mother Earth and reverence for all mothers. traditional Mexican cuisine made plant-based, all from scratch using local, organic ingredients," the site explains. "Dedicated to diffuser-free agave spirits, our bar highlights independent producers and small-batch distillers in Mexico. We honor the mother residing above us, within our hearts, within the earth, and in all those who nurture us. Pull up a chair- there’s always a seat at Love’s table.

We asked Gracias Madre's executive chef, Alan Sanz, to share his secrets to how to make healthy Mexican food, and he shares two recipes you can serve up in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

Gracias Madre's Executive Chef, Alan Sanz on Healthy, Vegan Mexican Food

The Beet: People don’t expect to find Mexican food that is vegan, and Gracias Madre does a great job of opening people's eyes to how expansive traditional Mexican cuisine is, and can be. What inspired you?

Chef Sanz: The culture for me is the biggest inspiration, getting away from the Mexican American cuisine and highlighting the possibilities of food from Mexico, cooking traditional ingredients with contemporary inspiration.

I wanted to show that Mexican food is more than just nachos, burritos, and guacamole. I wanted to remind people that our cuisine in Mexico is based on amazing natural ingredients like corn, beans, and chilies, all of which are completely vegan. I want to highlight that there are small communities in Mexico that still are eating completely vegan, with corn, black beans, chilies. The possibilities of things you can do with these ingredients, all while staying vegan are endless.

The Beet: What are 3 ingredients that are a must-have for you in the kitchen?

Chef Sanz: The same trilogy, corn beans, and chilies. Those are the three I always have to have in any kitchen. I also always have also cornmeal, a powdered masa. I have a relationship with this company from Hacienda, an amazing brand that brings heirloom corn from Mexico. I keep chilies for salsa, to bring flavor and spiciness. And beans! A black bean taco on a corn tortilla seasoned with chilies is one of my favorite things.

Chef Sanz: This is much more a Mexican American celebration. We don’t really have this celebration in Mexico, because it’s not as important as a holiday, but here it’s more important.

For me, the celebration is just being together with my family and friends. My grandma makes posole, one of the best foods in the world is my grandma's food.

With my work, I am so busy, so just being together with it my family is the most important thing for me. Making memories around the table, eating my grandma's food, the opportunity to catch up with my sister, my mother, and cousins. We listen to music that I used to play with my brother (who passed away) and just spend time together.

I also love to open my house to my best friends, to share with them my grandmother's cooking and invite them to make memories with us. That is what is most important to me during this holiday.

The Beet: Now my last question, is there any Cinco De Mayo special I should know about?

Alan: Yes actually, we have a special three-course menu for that day. It's this:

Nachos With Roasted Cauliflower: Corn chips, pinto beans, salsa macha, roasted cauliflower, crema, guacamole $9

Coconut Chicharron Taco: Black beans, chili oil, coconut meat, salsa verde, avocado. $7

Street Corn: Oaxacan chili aioli, queso fresco, lemon, cilantro crumbs. $7

Coffee Flan Espresso flan, caramel, coffee crumble. $7Or try these!

Instagram / @graciasmadresocal

Tlayuda --tortilla filled with black beans, mushrooms, vegan cheese, and cabbage

Ingredients

  • 1 Tlayuda tortillas
  • 3 tbsp sunflower seed butter my version to the (pork lard)
  • 1 green scoop black beans or 2.875 oz
  • 5 oz Mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz Cabbage
  • 5 oz Oyster mushrooms (Seasoned with garlic, nutritional yeast)
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • 2 oz Salsa Roja
  • 2 oz Pico de gallo

Instructions

  1. Toast the tlayuda a little on a griddle and then spread the sunflower seed lard
  2. Spread the beans, add the cheese and let it melt a little
  3. Add the cabbage, mushrooms, and avocado, fold in the tlayuda and let it toast on both sides until crisp.
Instagram / @graciasmadresocal

Jack Fruit Tostada -- toasted tortilla with beans, jack fruit and cashew cream

Ingredients

  • 4 Tostada
  • 8 tbsp Black beans
  • 16 oz Jack Fruit (4 oz per tostada)
  • 8 oz Cabbage(2 oz per tostada)
  • 60 g Crispy onions
  • 1 oz Cashew cream
  • 4 Micro Cilantro

Instructions

  1. Spread the Black beans on the tostada
  2. Place the jack fruit on the black beans
  3. Finish with the crispy onions, cabbage, cashew cream and micro cilantro